Do I Really Need To Take Prenatal Vitamins?

In this article:
  • Common nutrients in prenatal vitamins.
  • How vitamins can help you during each pregnancy trimester.
  • How your body may react to prenatal vitamins.
  • Tips for getting the most from your prenatal vitamin.

Pregnancy is a journey of the body and mind of the mother and all those in her inner circle. When a woman gets pregnant, she usually pulls on the experience and wisdom of those around her, as well as experts. During pregnancy, such experts recommend that the mother takes prenatal vitamins up to 3 months before conceiving. As a mother, especially a first-time mother, we usually follow this recommendation without question.

For some of us, we may take it a step further and start to wonder – not necessarily challenge – some of the things we’ve been told while pregnant. So some mothers have asked the question before: “Do I really need to take my prenatal vitamins?”. This is a valid question, especially if the mother maintains a healthy diet with nutrient-rich foods. Some pregnant moms are also looking at their mounting expenses and trying to figure out how they can cut back, without it backfiring. So let’s discuss the basics of prenatal vitamins and why it’s recommended by the experts.

The Basics Of Prenatal Vitamins

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Prenatal vitamins are supplements that contain key nutrients to support a woman’s body in preparation for conception and after conception. The portion of nutrients that women need for proper fetal development is usually higher in prenatal vitamins than in regular multivitamins.

Prenatal vitamins usually contain at least the following nutrients:

Folic acid is a form of B9-vitamin that supports the growth and development of our bodies’ cells and the neural tubes of the fetus, which minimizes the risk of neural defects. These defects can cause severe abnormalities of the fetal brain and spinal cord.

Iron helps develop the placenta and fetus and assists the body with making blood to supply the fetus with oxygen. Consuming the correct portion of iron while pregnant, also minimizes the risk of anemia – low blood count – which could lead to the baby being born too small or too early.

Calcium is crucial for building and maintaining bone density for the mother, while developing healthy bones and blood vessels for the fetus. During pregnancy, the growing baby takes calcium from the mother, so that loss needs to be replenished, usually through prenatal vitamins.

Prenatal vitamins may also contain Zinc, Iodine, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Thiamine (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Cobalamin (Vitamin B12).

The Benefits Of Prenatal Vitamins

The body doesn’t always absorb the portion of nutrients we need from the food we eat. So although a mother may maintain a very healthy balanced diet with nutrient-dense foods, when converted in the body, it may not satisfy the needs of her growing body and growing baby.

One great benefit of taking prenatal vitamins is that it helps to ensure that the mother’s body is being sufficiently enriched with key nutrients and minerals in a form that the body can readily use. For pregnant women who present high risk, such as mothers who’ve given birth to a child with a neural tube defect, this benefit is especially important. The OBGYN may recommend higher doses of certain nutrients like folic acid, which may be difficult for the body to fully obtain solely from food consumed.

Another amazing benefit of taking prenatal vitamins is that it usually reduces some of the unpleasant effects of pregnancy such as fatigue, poor memory, and muscular cramps.

Some prenatal vitamins can also be customized for each stage of pregnancy. The experts at Ellement believe that since the body changes over the course of pregnancy, so should prenatal vitamins. Since the body’s nutritional needs are changing, the prenatal vitamins should also change to suit each stage of conception and pregnancy. At Ellement, the supplements are personalized to fit the mother’s specific nutritional needs. Based on the mother’s unique fertility journey – for example, a mother carrying twins – the mother’s dosage is adjusted to meet her specific needs.

Side Effects Of Prenatal Vitamins

There are a few minor side effects to be aware of while taking prenatal vitamins. It’s worth noting that some side effects of prenatal vitamins are also side effects of pregnancy – such as nausea – so it’s difficult to isolate the two.

Constipation. The iron content of prenatal vitamins may contribute to constipation for some mothers. To help alleviate this, drink lots of fluids, increase fiber intake and ask your OBGYN how you can include physical activity in your day.

Skin and Hair Changes. The side effects of vitamin A can lead to hair loss and skin dryness and itching. Vitamin E can cause rashes on the skin and weakness of the skin so you may bruise easily.

Aches and Pains. In some cases, calcium, iodine, and iron have contributed to muscle weakness, hives, and teeth staining.

Overdose. It’s not advised to take prenatal vitamins or multivitamins while pregnant in excess of the recommended dosage. Consuming certain vitamins in high doses may be harmful to your baby such as an overdose of vitamin A. Another example is a high intake of folic acid which may cause increased blood levels of unmetabolized folic acid. Researchers say this may have a negative impact on overall health over time, but nothing conclusive has been made.

For mothers who’ve experienced the side effects of taking prenatal vitamins, here are some tips that may reduce or remove the side effects of prenatal vitamins. Please consult with your health provider or OBGYN before you make any changes:

  • Take your prenatal vitamin consistently and as prescribed.
  • Don’t take multiple vitamins, supplements, or herbal remedies while taking prenatal vitamins.
  • Avoid taking prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach. Preferably, take them with or after a meal.
  • Take a full glass of water with your prenatal vitamin.
  • Swallow the prenatal vitamin as a whole, instead of chewing or cutting, breaking, or crushing before you consume it.

The minerals and nutrients contained in prenatal vitamins are meant to increase the body’s ability to take care of itself and the growing baby. So in spite of the possibility of minor side effects, health care providers still encourage mothers to take their prenatal vitamins. However, if a mother is considering discontinuing prenatal vitamins due to circumstances, it’s not recommended that you suddenly stop taking them. It’s best to discuss with a healthcare provider or OBGYN how best to come off them.